Monday, November 2, 2009

Algren and Bukowski

I've always held an interest in the works of Charles Bukowski (especially his poetry) and after reading Nelson Algren I couldn't help but notice the similarities that these authors shared--their lives and their works somewhat mirror one another despite their disparate geographies.

Neither of these men were born in the cities that they came to represent but moved there at young ages. Algren came to Chicago from Detroit at the age of three with probably no memory of the latter. Bukowski, on the other hand, came to South Los Angeles from Maryland at age ten and prior to that spent his first seven years living in Germany. They both lived on the respective south sides of town and both went on to study journalism in college. (An interesting aside: in college, on suspicion of draft evasion, Bukowski was briefly held at Philadelphia's Moyamensing Prison, the location of the hanging of H.H. Holmes.) Both men were investigated by the FBI at one point (Bukowski for his "Notes of a Dirty Old Man" column and Algren for his political views).

Like the world of "drunks, pimps, prostitutes, freaks, drug addicts, prize fighters, corrupt politicians, and hoodlums" that Algren is famous for writing about first, Bukowski became the enduring symbol of society's underbelly of drugs, alcohol, and one-night stands. Their poetry played off the same aspects of society--both paid homage to the reality of their cities.

Bukowski's The Riots is perhaps the best example of Nelson Algren's second coming.

the riots

I've watched this city burn twice
in my lifetime
and the most notable thing
was the arrival of the
politicians in the
proclaiming the wrongs of
the system
and demanding new
policies toward and for the

nothing was corrected last
nothing will be corrected this

the poor will remain poor.
the unemployed will remain
the homeless will remain

and the politicians,
fat upon the land, will live
very well.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome poem, and I agree, Algren and Bukowski share a lot common ground!